Why would anyone vote to leave the EU? I’ve spent weeks campaigning on the streets of Edinburgh for remain and most people walk past uninterested, some are also concerned about the consequences and stop to thank us or have a moan about how insane it is, some are angry leave voters who shout angry things and very very occasionally there is a leave voter who stops to chat. So what are their reasons?
Worried Leave Voter
The first conversation I had was with a lady who had got off the bus to chat because she didn’t know what to think. She had voted leave, she said because she saw Germany had started two world wars and she didn’t want her children involved in that. She didn’t want to be part of this beurocratic undemocratic setup. I explain that one of the purposes of the EU was to stop wars by increasing interdependence. I explained that the EU spends around 6% of its budget on staff of around 43,000 (split between Commission, Parliament and Council) [reference]. This allows a massive reduction in bureaucracy by allowing freedoms and common rules. It’s a bit more staff than the BBC and less than a third of NHS Scotland (covers for a population 100 times the size) [reference]. She finished up wondering what she could do to help us stay in the EU.
Remain Voter Who Educated Himself
This was the most scary conversation I’ve had. That was a person who said he had voted remain but had then educated himself on websites and YouTube videos. He said that the head man in the EU is unelected. I explained that there are three presidential positions for the three parts of the EU and each one selects a president by a different democratic method, in the case of the government (the Commission) it’s the spritzenkandidaten nominated by the parliament, but anyway a president in the EU is a chair position not an all powerful head of administration such as in the US. He moved on saying how “our” culture is democratic and “their” culture is not, asking what he ment by these terms he said it was islamic culture which was not. He said the Quran was scary and promoted violence and Islamic culture is very different from our own. I agreed there was a lot I didn’t like about hardline and fundamentalist Islam and there was plenty I disliked about the attitudes of my local mosque Imam to society but the same could be said about hardline Christian culture including the violence that gets justified in its name in places such as Northern Ireland, I pointed out this topic was unrelated to the EU but somehow in his mind it was related. I said it was better to visit a mosque to chat about the issues than to build walls. Which brought him onto Israel and why they should be able to build walls. At which point I lost interest. He wasn’t angry but he was very radicalised by angry websites.
Someone Who Wants Indy Scot but not EU
One man wanted to know why I wanted to break up the UK but remain in the EU, if I believed in independence and sovereignty then surely I shouldn’t want a layer of government above Scottish? This is a trap the independence movement falls into saying they want sovereignty but shared with other independent nations. I hold no interest in either side of the argument, sovereignty is a medaeval idea to justify absolute power in a monarch and for some reason we insist on keeping the idea around, but it should be done away with. National borders are a case of finding the best organisation for the population who lives within them. Changing national borders should be as easily done as changing local council borders, not done every day but if it becomes clear there’s a more efficient and democratic way to draw some lines on a map then it should be done. It makes perfect sense for nations to work together in common government to make their borders as uninteresting as possible while working on common rules for issues like pollution and fish that don’t care about lines on a map. He wasn’t very interested in my answer.
Oxford Cricket Leave Voter
On a cricket lawn in England a gentleman in a suit introduced himself as Scottish. He’d grown up and lived in England however but he had been born in Scotland so surely that was what counts. He thought that British law which is based on common law and used in the US and Australia was better than the Continental system of law which was based on Roman law. I explained that he was mistaking Britain for England, Scotland has a legal system is based on Roman law. It is unrelated to England’s system which is unrelated to France’s system. Legal systems are organised at a national level so EU or indeed UK has no say in how these work and this wasn’t relevant to either. He said imperial measurements were based on easily understandable units like a foot or a thumb or an arm and these were superior to the metric system. I said I quite liked the ease of decimal but again he could use whatever measurements he wanted so the topic was unrelated to EU membership. He quaffed some Champaign and wandered off.
No Good Reasons
I have never heard a single good reason to leave the EU except from Craig Murray who considers its democratic structures help justify and enforce the borders of the nation state. When Catalunya had a democratic vote for independence (Catalunya is a nation in the Spanish constitution and the UN charter says that a People’s have a right to self determination so it’s a basic part of human rights and international law) nobody in the EU stood up for them, which is to the shame of the EU. But then nobody in any other layer of government stood up for them, even the Scottish government didn’t support them much. And he still wants to be in EFTA which would just mean all the same EU processes but without our people being part of the democracy, so that doesn’t help much.
Next time I meet a leave voter I’ll not bother to ask why they voted leave as they never have any sane answers. Instead I’ll ask what their preferred setup is for the UK to EU relationship. I doubt this will make any sense either but at least it’ll show the limitations of their opinions quicker.